Will your standby generator stand by you?

Many companies equip their facilities with a standby generator just in case the utility power supply fails. When the utility power goes out and the generator kicks in, which equipment will be powered by the generator, and which won’t? Can areas of the facility survive an immediate, uncontrolled shutdown? Are there certain areas of the process that require a methodical, controlled shutdown of the operation? Taking action to avoid the devastating consequences of a hard shutdown of your equipment is important for your business. Here are some actionable tips to keep the generator in working order in case an emergency occurs:

Know what machinery would suffer the most from a hard shutdown, and tie it into the generator’s circuit

Have a professional electrician properly size the generator to the equipment’s needs. Tie the auxiliary equipment needed to support the major machines into the circuit. (e.g. air compressor, hydraulic pump skid, conveyors, blowers, ventilation, environmental control, HVAC / refrigeration, etc.).

Know how long the generator has to run before the controlled shutdown of the critical machine(s) are safely into an idle condition

  • Determine how long will it take to finish the run and stop the machine.
  • Understand how many gallons of fuel the generator uses per hour. Calculate how many hours the generator needs to be running for a controlled shutdown.
  • Verify that there is enough fuel in the tank and make a contact list/arrangements with a local fuel dealer to have a fuel truck available for the generator.
  • Monitor operation of generator upon initial start, and at least hourly while in use. Keep a log of the hours of operation, the fuel usage, and the fuel fillings.

Make sure the fuel is fresh and clean

  • Water and bacteria growth in diesel fuel is a common problem that could shut down the generator.
  • Use biocides to treat fuel.
  • Keep fuel tank full.
  • Test fuel for water content at least every month, and remove any water that is detected.
  • Keep spare fuel filters in stock.

Know that the generator is properly maintained

  • Follow all manufacturer’s service recommendations, and make sure the work is performed by competent personnel.
  • Starting batteries should be inspected and load tested monthly.
  • The engine should be run for at least 30 minutes under no less than 1/3 of nameplate full load, every month.

Know what to do if the generator does not run

  • Make contacts at local equipment rental vendors to have similarly sized generators on hand, in case needed.
  • Create a tie-in for the rental generator, and have the necessary cabling available to go from the generator to the plant.
  • Ensure that there is sufficient space for a truck and its trailered generator to access the facility.
  • Establish how much time it takes to make a call for a rental unit and, have it delivered, hooked up and running.

Incorporating these suggestions into a standby generator plan will leave the company better prepared in the event of a sustained utility power outage. For more information on this and other topics, please visit HSB’s Equipment Connection Blog.

Here are some supplemental resources on generators from HSB.com:

Is Your Business Ready for an Emergency?

Maintaining Emergency and Standby Engine-Generator Sets

Standard for an Electrical Preventive Maintenance (EPM) Program

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© 2019 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form.

Noel Skwiot

Principal Mechanical Engineer at Hartford Steam Boiler, with over 30 years in industrial equipment design and support.

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